As Superintendent of Public Instruction, I understand my role will be to strengthen our public schools. I support school choice and will work closely with our Governor and Legislature to expand the options available for families across Arizona. I will relentlessly pursue ensuring that every student in Arizona has access to a great school.
I am a teacher and will fight for the teachers and educators whose needs – and those of their kids - have been lost in a sea of common core curriculum and teaching to the test. The new Arizona standards are nothing more than a Common Core copy-and-paste job. They don't allow for the creativity or educational flexibility that great teachers need to connect with their students. As Superintendent, I will fight to restore Arizona's educational freedom, end the over-testing of our students, and focus on developing a world-class curriculum that better meets the needs of Arizona teachers, students and parents.
Kids first, our schools shouldn't exist for the benefit of administrators and special interests. They don't exist to build sports stadiums. Our schools are there for the kids, or – at least – they should be. I will commit to working with parents to create the best environment for their kids. And part of that commitment means getting more money into our classrooms and raising teacher pay.
The problem isn't the overall dollars in the system, the problem is how those dollars are used. Arizona has the lowest percentage of total dollars devoted to classroom education among all 50 states. This has to stop. We need to put teachers and kids first – especially when it comes time to draw up our budgets. I will work with Governor Ducey and our Legislature to create programs designed to reduce overhead and facilities expenses and pour more of that money into our classrooms to hire and retain the best teachers, and ensure those individuals have everything they need at their disposal to get the job done and deliver a truly world-class education for every kid in Arizona.
Bilingual adults are a benefit to our now global society. Students that learn a different language through immersion programs get a huge intellectual boost. As students learn two languages they develop advantages to break their words apart, identify, sounds, and listen. They also make more money than people who only speak one language.
Further, those students who are English Language Learners are suffering due to lower standards than are necessary from our Department of Education, all stemming from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and other federal programs. ELL is a critical component of public education in our state, and it is time to recognize that, working with our community and political leaders to increase their skills and better meet their needs and the needs of our teachers in in the classroom is imperative. Many current ELL students test out of the program – without being properly prepared - but then find themselves sitting in classes that require levels of English comprehension they simply don't yet possess.
Immersion programs, starting young, are the key to solving both of these issues: they have been proven to work, they are replicable, and they are reliable. It's time for Arizona to embrace these programs – because all of our kids should learn more than one language.
A great education can't be boiled down to a handful of test scores. It can't even be fully measured on a report card. We have to focus on the education of the whole child. What does that mean? It means taking into account all the circumstances that have brought that kid into one of our classrooms and developing a growth plan – not just an educational plan, but a growth plan – to maximize their opportunities and chances for success. We need to maintain basic accountability, but we cannot continue enslaving students and teachers alike to the tyranny of the test.
Career and Technical Education is vital on each and every campus. Attending a four-year college is not for every child, and the skills that are learned in a CTE certification program on campuses provide necessary training experiences for students who aren't college bound, but still want to make the most of their lives. Students need to be ready to compete in the broader world, and we need to understand – and make clear to students, parents and teachers alike – the value of career and technical education.
Every community is different. Every school is different. We have to stop treating them the same. As your Superintendent, I will strive to create an environment in our public schools that directly meets the needs of the community they are in, not the cookie-cutter model that has become standard in education. By reducing state regulations, and working with the federal Department of Education under the current Administration, we have the opportunity to free schools across our state to develop programs that meet the actual needs of their students, rather than the standards set by a bureaucrat in Phoenix or Washington.
Study after study shows that, beside a parent, a great teacher is single most important factor in the education of a child. New teachers are coming to us with a variety of knowledge and abilities, and we want to embrace that diversity. At the same time, we need to improve and upgrade teacher training and career development throughout the state. Our kids and parents deserve more from our teachers whether right out of school or 25 years into the profession.
We need to use the same peer-to-peer training and sharing of best practices that have become standard in most other areas of human activity. But we need to go further, we need to push for higher admittance standards in our colleges of Education. Then we need to reward those higher standards with significantly increased teacher pay. We need to make becoming a teacher a sought-after career, not a fallback for people who were struggling to earn a different degree.
We need to open up paths and opportunities for people with advanced degrees and real world experience who want to bring their invaluable expertise and accomplishments to the classroom. Right now, when highly qualified people like these want to become teachers, they have to go back to school for years, and spend thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars to get certified. Specialized teacher training programs for these individuals that give them classroom training and experience, but don't require going back to school for years, would create tons of new opportunities for schools to take advantage of the strengths and expertise of the people in their districts. At a time when our teacher shortage is becoming ever more acute, this is one easy way we can expand the pool of highly qualified candidates for our classrooms and expose our students to people who have a broader range of life experiences than the average teacher. Especially here in Arizona where so many highly qualified people come to retire or begin second careers, we are making a huge mistake by not taking advantage of the opportunity these kinds of folks represent.